Season of Masks and Mellow Fruitfulness

Apologies to Keats for the lame pun.  Maybe it is not the best idea – during a deadly pandemic –  to reference a text in which the poet uses Autumn to reflect on his own imminent mortality but I couldn’t resist.  It has been some time since I last hit “post” on this blog because, for obvious reasons, I don’t have much to report but I thought I could write something about what we have been up to this Autumn.

We started October with a birthday: our second oldest son turned 15.  He is my movie geek so normally his celebration would involve a cinema trip and a restaurant dinner with us and some of his friends.  While that was not possible this year, his birthday still revolved around movies, especially some of his favourites.  Our 13 year old, for instance, drew his brother’s favourite Director – Martin Scorsese – as a gift and the decorations for his cake were all cinema inspired.

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My 15 year old’s favourite movie of recent years is ‘The Lighthouse’ and his favourite actor is Willem Dafoe.  It was, therefore, not a surprise when he chose to dress up as Dafoe’s character in ‘The Lighthouse’ for Halloween.  Our youngest son went trick or treating as a cat. Our neighbourhood did a safe, socially-distanced trick or treat event.  Candy had to be bagged up in advance and left down by the sidewalk so that nobody had to approach houses and everyone had to walk in the direction of traffic to avoid passing.  It worked really well as a zero contact event and I was glad we could do something approaching “normal” for the youngest members of the community.  Honestly, I rather hope this becomes the new tradition.  It was much easier and the kids were able to gather so much more candy in a shorter period of time because they were not having to leave the sidewalks or wait for people to answer the door.  I am adding that to the list of things I hope don’t return to normal after the pandemic.

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My own personal Halloween horror story was surviving without a fridge-freezer for almost the whole of October.  In addition to being an unexpected expense, we had a whole lot of stress trying to problem-solve a replacement.  When we bought our house, it had not been remotely updated since it was built in 1968 with the exception of the kitchen which dates from about 1990.  It was not, therefore, wholly surprising when the fridge-freezer went kaput.  Unfortunately, dimensions of appliances have changed over the past 30 years and we could not find a replacement fridge-freezer that would fit into the space.  Aside from the fact that we cannot afford to replace the entire kitchen right now, the units are actually in excellent condition.  The only solution we could come up with that maintained the integrity of the surrounding cabinets was to remove the doors from the cabinets above the fridge-freezer space, cut down the interior box, and create an open shelving situation.  It is not ideal but it will do for now and until we do renovate the entire kitchen.  The plumbing for the fridge-freezer was not in line with current code so that was another hiccup along the way.  Needless to say, after a month without a functioning fridge-freezer, I am so happy and grateful to have a new one.

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My birthday fell in election week so the election and the stressful wait for the results dominated the week.  It did, however, make for a very memorable birthday.  I cannot imagine I will ever forget it.  My husband’s birthday fell just two days after we went into lockdown in the Spring and I have the last birthday of the year in our household so we have all had this weird birthday experience now.

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My birthday tradition is to have a trip somewhere that everyone has to agree to and not complain (too much) about.  A lot of things are off limits right now and then there are things we assess as being too high risk.  Luckily, however, one of my favourite pastimes is visiting cemeteries and that is a safe thing to do in the current context.  We, therefore, took a trip to Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.

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It is always useful to have a focus to our cemetery visits so I went armed with research into some graves we could try to locate.  Mr Pict actually has some distant relatives buried in the cemetery but we had no success in finding them.  Our focus, therefore, was on famous graves.

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The first grave I really wanted to find was that of Mary Grew.  She was an abolitionist and suffragist and, given 2020 is the centenary of women being enfranchised in America and Americans have just elected the nation’s first female VP, it seemed apt to go visit her grave.

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Just a hop, skip, and a jump away, we located the grave of the artist Thomas Eakins.  I confess I had not heard of Eakins until we emigrated and settled in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  One of Eakins’ most famous paintings is The Gross Clinic and the subject of that painting, Dr Samuel Gross, is buried elsewhere in the cemetery.  One of my nerdy interests – an offshoot of my fascination with disease and pandemics – is the history of medicine and the painting of Gross provides some insight into the practices in surgical theatres at that time – not a lot of hygiene, for instance.  That same interest is what drew me to find the resting place of John Conrad Otto.  He identified the pattern of hereditary that caused the transmission of hemophilia.

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As you may recall, Mr Pict is a Civil War nerd so we, of course, had to visit at least a couple of the graves of notable Civil War veterans: Naval Commodore William David Porter and David Bell Birney.

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My kids have remained 100% virtual for education but, just last week, those students who wished to were able to return to brick and mortar schools on a hybrid model.  By the end of the week, the county public health department ordered that all schools had to pivot back to 100% online for all students for a period of two weeks.  Apart from the fact I returned to work, we have continued to live in a “lockdown” mode so nothing much alters for us.  It may, however, indicate that a strict lockdown is on the horizon.  Apart from not wishing to be furloughed again, we are prepared for it.  We will just continue to watch movies, play board games, and bake.  

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11 thoughts on “Season of Masks and Mellow Fruitfulness

    • I think the way I phrased it made it clear that a woman had been elected as VP without suggesting she was now the acting VP. I think most readers would understand that the inauguration does not occur for a while yet. I choose not to write about politics in my blog but, regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, I certainly felt it worth mentioning that America had elected a female VP for the first time ever. It’s historic. I have a great deal of animus towards Margaret Thatcher, for instance, but respect that her becoming the first female PM of Britain was historically significant.

  1. What a great drawing of Scorsese. We know where he gets his artistic abilities. It looked like a great fall day to visit the cemetery. I sure hope we don’t have any more lockdown. My son was only in person for one week of the school year and has been home ever since. There are several cases at the school but no one appears to be sick. Happy birthday to you!

    • Thank you. The school situation is just chaotic. I don’t think in-person or virtual kids are having a great experience this year. I appreciate school for providing my kids with some stimulus and routine and structure but the academic part seems to be going by the by this year as – understandably – not all teachers are successfully pivoting to a new mode of teaching and learning. I feel for the education staff as much as I feel for the students. All we can ask is that everyone tries their best and is not too hard on themselves. We are all dealing with a lot this year.

  2. Happy belated birthday!! And that’s a wonderful drawing of Scorsese!! Wow, it’s impressive that you got to see Thomas Eakin’s grave! I got to see his artwork in an exhibit in Washington DC an eon ago and it made a profound influence on me. I have one of Eakin’s books on drawing that I refer to often. I too have a nerdy interest in pandemics and how social mores and thinking affect health. I blame (in an affectionate way) my adopted father, a doctor in the Navy, for my interest. He and I had many discussions about how revolutionary the first doctor that decided to wash his hands between patients was – and that he persisted in washing his hands despite ridicule he received at the time for doing so. My family, too, has been operating on lockdown mode since March 8 and we plan to persist at it.
    On the topic of fridge/freezers: we had the same issue in our 1963 house… had trouble finding a fridge to fit the space and had to get creative about the cabinets. So glad you were able to solve your issue so well!! It’s good to hear from you…😊❤

    • Thanks, Sue. I thought I’d best post something on the blog before the digital cobwebs got too bad even though, as you can see, I was having to scrape the barrel to find subjects to write about. 😆
      Have you read The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris? It’s a very good account of that period of realizing surgery had to be made safer through hygiene.

    • The cats like to get in on the action when we are playing board games. It can make things very interesting. At least on that occasion we could just turn one of them into a platform for the game cards. 😆

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